ITKs (Indigenous Traditional Knowledge)
As the Earth's population continues to grow, more resources are demanded. A desire for material goods also continues to be a main goal for people, and these two elements combined place an increased pressure on Mother Earth. The 21st century is inevitable, and as it rapidly approaches, there is constant talk of bigger and better things. Many people are beginning to posses the Western view of affluence, and more attention is focused on how to obtain the greatest amount of resources without thought for how extraction will impact the future. It is understandable that an increase in population is demanding more commodities, but with careful management of our natural resources, a sustainable balance can be achieved.
Indigenous groups all over the world have adapted cultural belief systems that demonstrate an immense knowledge and respect for the Earth. These systems contain rules that define how the environment should be treated. Rituals, ceremonies and prohibitions all regulate the use of natural resources and accomplish the goals of resource management and a balanced ecosystem. Understanding this knowledge and using it to solve environmental problems is incumbent on us.
Time is of the essence as more native groups are introduced to modern things that otherwise would have no place in their lives, attitudes change and the desire for better things is continual. In contrast to Western societies, native societies have fewer wants and needs. As colonization continues, Western views are being implanted into many native societies and is affecting their traditional life style. Take the Amazon for example. The lush tropical rainforests have been of great curiosity to explorers for many centuries. Traditional societies living close to nature for thousands of years were discovered, and cultural heritage destroyed either because of death by foreign disease or assimilation into mainstream society. Gradually through assimilation traditional practices and respect for the Earth lessen. Ironically, as we become more interested in traditional belief systems, the youngsters of many indigenous groups are becoming disinterested in their native culture. Outside influence provides them with a negative view of their culture, and they believe it is a waste of time to learn about traditional practices. Things are changing, and some indigenous societies are keeping their cultural autonomy intact despite these outside influences.
Smithsonian scientists researching environmental problems are discovering ways the damage, to the Earth, that has and is being done can be restored and regulated. Traditional knowledge of the Earth is based on thousands of years experience and can not be left out of the formula for environmental management. There is so much we can learn from indigenous peoples and as scientists devise plans for regulation and restoration, traditional knowledge provides guidance and solutions.
What is Indigenous Knowledge?
Indigenous Knowledge (IK) can be broadly defined as the knowledge that an indigenous (local) community accumulates over generations of living in a particular environment. This definition encompasses all forms of knowledge – technologies, know-how skills, practices and beliefs – that enable the community to achieve stable livelihoods in their environment. A number of terms are used interchangeably to refer to the concept of IK, including Traditional Knowledge (TK), Indigenous Technical Knowledge (ITK), Local Knowledge (LK) and Indigenous Knowledge System (IKS).
Traditional Knowledge Systems in Rice
Recent studies have unraveled a number of unknown properties of rice, some of which have been reported in ancient Indian Ayurvedic literature.The ancient literatures of rice-growing Asian countries such as Thailand, Myanmar,China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and India have attributed some medicinal properties to rice, in addition to it being the mainstay as food. In early oriental writings, whole brown rice was mentioned as the perfect food. In China, the medicinal value of rice was known as far back as in 2,800 BC, when it was used by royal Chinese physicians for healing purposes. It was believed to restore tranquility and peace to those who were easily upset. Dried, sprouted rice grains were used to aid in digestion, toning muscles and expel gas from the stomach and intestines. The Chinese believe rice strengthens the spleen as well as stomach, increases appetite, and cures indigestion. They use red rice yeast for various ailments.
Traditional Malaysian medical writings prescribe boiled rice ‘greens’ as an eye lotion and for use in acute inflammation of the inner body tissues. The application of dried powdered rice is recommended for skin ailments. In Cambodia, the hulls of mature plants are considered useful for treating dysentery. Hulls of three-month-old rice plants are diuretic. In the Philippines, rice polish (bran, tiki tiki) is extracted and used as an excellent source of vitamin B to prevent and cure beri-beri (Vir et al., 2005).
Farmers in developing societies have quite a sophisticated knowledge evolved and gained through their close interaction within natural and physical micro-environment and cultural adaptation, which are recognized now more eco-friendly and sustainable. Looking to the importance of the role of farmers’ knowledge in sustainable agriculture, an effort has been made to conduct a study in purposively selected villages of Gond and Halba tribes of southern part of Bastar district, Chhatisgarh, India towards indigenous rice crop management under rainfed agroecosystem. A combination of methodology including participant observation, group discussions, semi-structured interview schedule and Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) has been used. A group of experienced scientists from different disciplines were chosen to get their perception towards scientific rationale of farmers’ practices. Study indicated that tribal farmers were having experiential wisdom to conserve and select the 97 location-specific indigenous paddy rice varieties for getting sustainable yields. A poor socio-economic status and risk-prone biophysical condition for agriculture do not permit the tribal people to adopt energy intensive technology for local rice crop management. They have therfore developed their own innovative strategy of location specific rice cropping. Most of the conserved and adopted indigenous varieties of rice are resistant against diseases and insect pests. Both the tribes possess invaluable local knowledge towards rice crop management practices, but the practices differ. These tribal farmers have indigenous method of soil classification, fertility management, soil and water conservation through selected plants/trees/shrubs and cultural practices, creating micro-environment, seed selection and conservation, planting methods, weed control, maintaining the indigenous gene pool of l location specific rice varieties, cropping systems and local techniques of insect pest management. The farmers were more confident about their local practices of managing and producing the indigenous rice which is more compatible to socio-cultural and bio physical resources. Perception of agricultural scientists indicated that most of the documented local practices of indigenous rice crop management by tribal people had a rationale and they were worthy of consideration from sustainability point of view.
Traditional Knowledge Systems in Karnataka
Permaculture (Permanent agriculture) is an effort to integrate a variety of disciplines to help us create sustainable methods for living on the planet. The word 'permaculture' is a combination of the words 'permanent' and 'agriculture' or 'permanent' and 'culture.' It was developed by Australian Bill Mollison as a constructive response to the ecological and energy crises that became globally apparent in the early 1970s.
It is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscapes and people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non material needs in sustainable way.
Subhash Palekar’s method of natural farming: This method has already been practiced by many farmers in the state of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu etc. In Karnataka, a few farmers from Bidar, Gadag, Mysore, Chitradurga and other districts are following this method of cultivation. He also calls his method of cultivation as zero budget natural farming consisting of four chakras which he refers as ratha chakras. They are as follows.
Bijamrita (Seed treatment: - Beej Sanskar), Jiwamrita (Microbial culture), Achchadana (Mulching) and Waaphasa (Soil aeration)
In the preparation of Bijamrita and Jiwamrita, deshi cows’ urine and dung are the major components, apart from using a local soil from the surface boundary of the farm (serves as a inoculants for native micro organisms).
Agnihotra – Homa Farming: Agnihotra is a scientific process of purification of the atmosphere with the agency of cosmic element - FIRE. It is ordained by Vedas, the ancient most treasure of scientific knowledge belonging to the entire humanity. Agnihotra creates pure nutritional and medicinal atmosphere and prevents growth of pathogenic bacteria. The subtle vibrations emanating from agnihotra fill the surrounding atmosphere with vibrations of love, peace and purity. Agnihotra is an excellent method of practicing natural and ecological farming. Its purifying effect makes plants happy, healthy and disease-resistant. Animal life too is benefited in its vicinity. Regular performance of agnihotra helps rebalance the disturbed ecological cycles. Agnihotra purifies the water reservoirs. It has also been experienced that the agnihotra-ash is extremely medicinal and can be used as nutrition to plants.
We would like to bring your attention to few rice varieties, which are already in use and are meeting or have the potential to meet the food security needs of farming families and of society as a whole, especially if they are encouraged with appropriate means. . Further, other than looking at only economics of the cultivation, these varieties are linked with the people's cultures and traditional knowledge.
- KUMERU is a drought resistant rice variety cultivated in the hilly areas of Karnataka during rainy season.
- CHARE is a drought resistant variety grown in Karnataka, which gives long straw that can be used as cattle feed or put to some other alternative use.
- KAYAME is a traditionally grown rice variety of Karnataka, which is resistant to both drought and alkalinity, and it gives tasty boiled rice.
- MORADDA is a red, tasty, big size rice variety that is resistant to both drought and alkalinity. It grows faster and is cultivated during three seasons in Karnataka.
- KALAME is an alkalinity hardy variety grown in coastal areas and it has medicinal properties.
- JHOLAGA is a salinity resistant rice variety, which is traditionally grown in coastal regions of Karnataka. This also gives long straw.
- BORO rice variety is drought hardy and is cultivated in dry areas of Bihar.
- Orkaima, Pokkali and Kuttadan are indigenously grown, salt- resistant paddy varieties of Kerala.
- A variety called HETADA VEE is grown in Sri Lanka in the dry season. It matures earlier than the commonly used varieties and gives a good yield.